Baby Gorilla Born At Louisville Zoo Appears Healthy, Full-Term - News, Weather & Sports

Baby Gorilla Born At Louisville Zoo Appears Healthy, Full-Term

By Eric Flack

(LOUISVILLE, December 5th, 2003, 5 p.m.) -- Workers at the Louisville Zoo had a little surprise when they came to work Thursday morning to find baby gorilla had been born overnight. Eric Flack reports.

When the Louisville Zoo opened its $15 million Gorilla Forest exhibit in May 2002, long lines of people waited to get an up-close look at the animals. But the exhibit's biggest day may have been Thursday, when workers discovered they had a new addition to the family.

"We all of a sudden saw a little hand reach up, and then the second little hand reached up, and then the baby pulled itself up to her chest," said zoo spokesperson Debbie Sebree. "So at that point, I turned and said, 'we have a baby!'"

Zoo officials knew Makari was expecting, but didn't think she was due until February. However, Sebree says the appears to be full term and healthy.

Enticed by a little food and greeted by throngs of curious onlookers, Makari and her newborn were on display for the first time Friday morning.

Because gorillas are one of the most endangered species, every healthy birth is big news. Mayor Jerry Abramson arrived with a gift of 25 pounds of bananas Friday, saying that he just wasn't sure what would be appropriate. "That's why we've brought a full basket of bananas."

The father is Jo Jo, a 23-year-old, 475-pound silverback. Makari is the daughter of Frank, the oldest silverback at the zoo.

Jo Jo took a banana from the mayor but Makari was too busy nursing her baby to immediately enjoy the gifts.

Zoo Director Dr. Bill Foster says the birth is "incredibly significant -- the first gorilla birth for the Louisville Zoo and it's not a very common happening throughout the entire country."

The newborn delighted not only zoo officials, but also seventh graders on a field trip from Western Middle School. "I didn't think it was going to look like that," said one student. "I thought it was going to come out pink."

"I want one!" said another student.

Like most newborn gorillas, the baby is holding tightly to its mother, so zoo officials haven't yet had a chance to determine its sex. They don't want to separate mother and newborn unless medically necessary. They hope to determine the sex in the next couple of weeks.

The gorillas in the Louisville Zoo's Gorilla Forest are on loan from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, where they are due back next year.

Online Reporter: Eric Flack

Online Producer: Michael Dever

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